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Sheep

( Originally Published 1936 )

There are numerous breeds of domestic Sheep, varying in shape and size, and in many of them the horns are but little developed in either sex. The horns grow closer together than in oxen, are normally large in the male, curved downwards and often again upwards, and in the females are smaller. The body is thickly clothed with more or less woolly hair, and the males lack the scent-glands that emit such a disagreeable odour in their near allies, the goats. See Plate 29, Fig. 127. Wild Sheep are mountain animals, and several species are found in the mountains of Europe, Asia, and America. The wild race (or races) from which the domesticated Sheep is derived is unknown, and is probably extinct. Some of the numerous domestic breeds are most valued for their flesh, like the small Welsh and Southdown Sheep, and others, like the Merino, or Spanish Sheep, for the fineness of their wool, and in some parts of the world milk obtained from the ewes is made into cheese. See Plate 29, Fig. 128.

In Africa the wild Sheep are replaced by an animal which seems to be almost between the Sheep and the goats in character, known as the Barbary Wild Sheep (Ovis tragelaphus), a large animal almost equalling in size our own Rocky Mountain Sheep, and having a curious fringe of long hair hanging from the throat, and two cuffs, or tufts, of hair around the wrists on the fore-legs. In colour it is a light, even brown, and the eyes are pale golden-yellow. The horns are goat-like in form, standing upwards and outwards from the head, not curling in a circle and not so deeply ridged as in the true Sheep. It is quite a common animal in captivity, being very hardy and breeding well.

Mouflon (Ovis musimon)

The Mouflon of Corsica and Sardinia is a wild Sheep with large curving horns, and standing nearly three feet in height at the shoulder. It is of a reddish colour above, with the face ashy, the under parts and legs white, and a dark brown stripe running along the back.

Argali (Ovis argali)

This is a large and handsome sheep found in the mountains of Mongolia and Eastern Siberia. It is dark greyish-brown above and whitish below, in winter becoming reddish, and the fleece is fine, inter-mixed with stiff bristles. The great horns are curved downward and outward, and are said sometimes to weigh as much as forty pounds and to measure five feet across the tips. See Plate 30, Fig. 129. Several allied species are found in Thibet and Central Asia which attain even greater size, the horns being heavier and more twisted in form.

Rocky Mountain Sheep (Ovis montana)

The magnificent animal known as the Bighorn, or Rocky Mountain Sheep, was at one time common in the western parts of this country, but is now becoming exterminated. It measures as much as three feet in height at the shoulder, has enormously long, heavy, and recurved horns, and in colour is light brownish-grey shading to a lighter tint on the under parts. The tail is extremely short, almost invisible. See Plate 3o, Fig. 131. This animal, as usual with wild sheep, lives in mountainous and inaccessible parts of the country, and is extremely sure-footed, leaping from crag to crag with extraordinary facility. In character it closely resembles the two preceding forms, and is about midway between them in general proportions.

Of late years two distinct varieties of this great sheep have been found in the more southwestern parts of the United States and Canada, blue, or smoke-coloured, smaller in stature than the true Mountain Sheep, and having horns more delicate in form.



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